Saturday, July 11, 2015

Venezuelans are having a hard time.

The cost of living is astronomical for Venezuelans but dirt cheap for visitors.

In fact, it's hard to understand how Venezuelans are making it at all.

Let me give you some background. I spent the months of November, December and January in Venezuela. I lived with friends and family (by marriage.) These are ordinary, everyday people who are not very political. Above is a little video I made at a cousin's house that he was still building with his own hands on a small piece of land not too far from the border city of San Cristobal. I stayed with him for three weeks.

Now, the money situation in Venezuela is a bit odd and some people will not easily believe this post, because many good and progressive people idealize Venezuela, and thought very highly of the late President Hugo Chavez. I am one who never called myself a Chavista, but yes I felt and still feel that Hugo Chavez's intentions were to uplift the poor of Venezuela most of all, and to aid the poor everywhere. I thought and still think he made serious mistakes some of which his successor continues to maintain. I'm not going to be a typical first world radical sectarian who knows what Venezuela has to do. I know that through struggle and with no strings attached help they can find a road forward.

 Venezuelans line up in hopes of getting basic necessities.

Frequently they take what they find, not necessarily what they set out to get.

Venezuela's monetary policy sets several values for the national currency, known as the Bolivar fuerte The base official exchange rate is 6.3 Bolivares fuerte (Bs.f) to the dollar. When you read a statement that the minimum wage is "over a thousand dollars a month" the exchange rate being referred to is this 6.3 Bolivares to the dollar rate. The minimum wage in Venezuel today is 7,421.71 Bolivares fuerte per month, or $1,178.05 a month. Wow, that's $272 a week, right?

It's quite  a bit higher than the minimum wage in neighboring Colombia, where it's $241.15 a month  plus another $27.70 transportation subsidy.
 A Big Mac comparison would  change that notion. A Big Mac Combo in Caracas is 476 Bs.f divide that by 6.3 to find out how many dollars it costs a Venezuelan: $75.55!

Now a tourist who availed himself of the legal Simadi rate (198 Bs.f to the dollar) gets a pretty good deal on that Big Mac: $2.40! In New York City that varies around $8.00. But wait. There's a parallel illegal market for dollars in Venezuela. Now last November we were looking at 120 Bs.f. last month it was over 300  Bs.f.. I checked the website
Bolivar in Cucuta that reports on the currency exchange rates in the border city of Cucuta, Colombia. According to it, this morning you could have bought 552 Bs.f with one Yankee dollar. You do the math.

4 rolls of toilet paper in Caracas (if you found toilet paper) 70 Bs.f

1 pack of American filter cigarettes 185 Bs.f

Update October 27, 2015- 820 Bolivar to the dollar. Venezuelan minimum wage to increase thirty percent.

1tube of toothpaste (if you found it) 56 Bs.f

1/2 kilo of boneless chicken breast 216 Bs.f

1 gallon whole milk (3.79 litres)265 Bs.f

12 large eggs 96 Bs.f
PS teachers get minimum wage.

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